February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. According to the Domestic Violence Awareness Project, approximately 1.5 million teens experience physical abuse from a dating partner. As parents, educating our teenagers about what is domestic violence is a conversation that needs to happen just as much as we need to talk about birth control. As parents, both conversations are uncomfortable, but they are necessary conversations to protect our children.

In order to educate your teenager about domestic violence, you need to understand what it is. As a young child, I lived in a home where domestic violence was a frequent occurrence. However, I was taught that it was only abuse if someone was being physically hit or attack. But that is not the only type of domestic violence, and it took a long time for me to understand what the forms are. It was only after I reported my ex-husband after he hit me for the first time that I realized domestic violence is more than physical violence. I learned that I do not have to be hit for a spouse or someone I am dating to be abusive.

Domestic violence or abuse is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior. It is when one person in a relationship is exerting power and control over the other person. Domestic violence takes many forms: physical, emotional, economic, stalking and harassment, and sexual.

Emotional abuse is a behavior that one partner uses to control the other or to damage their emotional well-being. It can be verbal or non-verbal. Some forms of emotional abuse include name-calling, yelling in your face, telling you what to do or where you can go, and placing little value on what you have to say. Emotional abuse can also include putting you down in front of other people or saying negative things about your friends and family. Often the abuser will blame the abused partner for their actions. When phone calls, texts or computer use is monitored or control, this is another form of emotional abuse.

If you do not know how to start the conversation with your teen about domestic violence, start with emotional abuse. Discuss what it is and how valuable your teen is. Let them know that no one, even someone they care about and are dating, should be using any form of emotional abuse against them. Be willing to have an open and honest discussion with your teen. This may include listening to your teen identify some of these behaviors in you or your spouse or significant other. Reiterate that the goal of these behaviors is to control another person or damage their self-esteem. Encourage your teen to come to you, if they are questioning this type of behavior in someone that she or he is dating. Discuss with your teen what steps can be taken to address this behavior before it escalates. This may include breaking up with the person if the behavior continues.

If steps you have taken as a family to end a relationship have not worked, call Melissa Pearce & Associates today at (248) 329-0344 to speak with our team on what you can do next to protect your teenager. 

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